FGS is only a couple of weeks away and planning for it is my biggest task right now. The question of what to pack for a conference is always puzzling . There are so many variables between what I might bring and what others bring depending upon the mode of travel. Obviously, if you are driving you can throw in the extra pairs of shoes, just in case those new ones turn out to be not so comfortable after a long day. When traveling by plane, as I seem to always be, a little more planning is required.
Firstly, never bring the new shoes that you haven’t worn much! Having sore feet definitely puts a damper on your enjoyment of a conference and you could find your decisions about which class to attend or if you should walk back to the exhibit hall during the break being dictated by your shoe choice. Tennis shoes are great for the conference, but for air travel I don’t want to pack them because they take up so much space and I don’t want to wear them because of airport security. Comfortable slip-ons seem to be the best compromise for me.
A second consideration is what do I wear?? Convention centers are huge cavernous spaces, usually broken up into different sized rooms with dividers. This means that the temperature inside can vary greatly from one room to the next. You could be burning up in a sweater in a crowded exhibit hall or a tiny over packed room, but shivering in a larger room or seated under an air conditioning duct. I generally solve this by wearing short sleeved tops with a sweater or jacket. During the course of a day that sweater will be on and off multiple times as the need arises.
My third and biggest decision is what to bring to carry my stuff in during the day. I have tried most of the options with varying results. This year’s FGS is going to be even more difficult to plan what to carry because I will be spending part of each day at the Allen CountyPublic Library doing research, so I do need my computer, and it’s cord. I was not able to get into one of the original conference hotels right downtown so when the shuttle picks me up in the morning I have to have everything I will need all day with me. Just carrying my purse is great, but no room there for even my ipad, a bottle of water, or things I might buy. A backpack never actually gets properly put on my back and so I end up with a terrible backache from carrying it slung over one shoulder, plus it looks pretty unprofessional and I tend to wack people in the face with it when I do put it on my back. It’s also quite unwieldy when I get to a room late and have to squeeze into a seat in the middle of the row. The last couple of conferences I have gone with a rolling briefcase, easy to transport without adverse effects on the back (unless lots of steps are involved), I can bring water and snacks in it and has room for any handouts or purchases and the computer. The biggest drawback to the rolling bag is that issue of squeezing into a middle seat again. I did purchase a smaller one that I used at NGS and at least it fits under my seat, but getting it there is sometimes quite difficult. For FGS this year I think that I will try using the great bag that was given out at Roots Tech this year. This bag has plenty of room for my computer/ipad, various notes and papers that I seem to collect, a wallet, snacks and even an outside water bottle pocket. Under the flap there are easily accessible pockets for pens/pencils and a pocket for my phone. The strap is long enough to be carried cross body if I am walking a long way, but it also has a small hand grip. Best of all, it takes up almost no room in my luggage so I will bring the rolling briefcase for my airplane carryon and the RootsTech bag will fit in my luggage. I can always revert to the rolling briefcase if the shoulder bag gets too heavy. I wish I knew what kind of bag will be handed out for FGS. Maybe I wouldn’t need to bring anything at all!
I wish that I didn’t need to carry a water bottle because that is a large part of the weight I carry around, but I’ve found that I need to have the bottle with a measured amount of water in it to keep track of how much I drink. I need 4 of those 16 ounce bottles a day. Conference organizers are usually very good about having water dispensers with the little cups near the various classrooms, but for me, getting enough of those little 4 oz cups never really works well. Staying hydrated is not really a packing issue, but it is one of the most important tips that I can pass along. My brain just does not perform to capacity when I am not drinking enough water, there is a fog that settles in and comprehension drops dramatically. With all the time, effort and expense it takes to attend a conference, it is important to pay attention to the little things that ultimately determine how much information is gained.
I’d better get to packing! See you there!